Callista O’Brien became a published author at seventeen years old. By sharing her book with the world, Callista connects with readers and writers who she never would have reached otherwise. After checking out Callista’s first novel, The Other World, I’m itching to get her autograph while I still have the chance!
The Other World shows the reactions of normal people who are forced into an extreme situation. The story follows a fifteen year old girl, Haylyn Jones, who wakes up in another dimension after a terrible accident. From there, Haylyn learns that she will be studied by ghoulish creatures called the Laves. Oh, and by the way, she can never go home. Find out more on The Other World here...
Here’s what Callista shared about following her passion, starting at thirteen years old:
Don’t wait to do what you love
“I am so against the idea that you can’t do anything while you’re young. I started the book when I was thirteen and it was published when I was seventeen. To find a publisher, I went to a couple of writers conferences and did a lot of research. I was worried about publishing so young, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make writing a full-time job, or be able to fly places to meet with people constantly, since I was in school. But then at the conference, they introduced us to a local publisher, Lucky Bat Books, and it was by authors, for authors. I decided to send them a submission, and I didn’t include my age. I wanted to see if they would accept my book for what it was without knowing my age. So when I met with the representative, she was like ‘I either thought you were a young author or you had a teenage girl at home!’ She could tell from the natural way that I wrote about how teenage girls speak.”
“I had several other ideas before this, but as I started writing them, they would just die off. But this one, I felt compelled to finish. I felt that I owed it to the story to finish it. The longer you write something, the more the characters really become their own. In the beginning, the characters are based off of you in a way. So it’s weird to watch them grow into real people. They take on their own personalities and do things that you’re surprised by.”
Young girls can accomplish anything
“I think my work shows that young girls really can accomplish a lot. I wanted to show that there is a love interest, but he doesn’t help with any of her accomplishments. He’s in the dark the whole time, while she’s like ‘I’m gonna get out of here.’ I wanted to show that the feelings of love are legitimate, but also, your first love doesn’t have to be your last love. And I think that’s hard because you want books to have a happy ending. I guess I’m more of a bittersweet ender. My book ends with a cliffhanger. This book was the first in a trilogy, and I need to get working on the next one. I’m working on a stand-alone book right now and it’s a totally different concept.”
“My main character, Haylyn, is fifteen years old, and at the time I was writing it, I thought fifteen was so old and mature. And then I turned fifteen and I was like…wait a second. So I was still working on it while I was fifteen, but my perspective on Haylyn had changed. And now, looking back, she definitely is a fifteen year old girl. That’s something I wanted to do, I wanted it to be for a teenage girl, and have the voice of a teenage girl. I could have written it more formally, but I really wanted to keep it colloquial. Lots of times you read books, and you’re like, a fourteen year old would never say that! So I wanted to keep my work accurate to that age group.”
No matter your natural abilities- stay determined
“I used to struggle with grammar and spelling. In the fifth grade, I took my first standardized writing test, and I failed it. But, I got better, and I read more, and reading really helps with spelling. By the eighth grade, I got a perfect score on the standardized test. Kids are so hard on themselves. They label themselves in school, but those labels are not true. Their brains are still developing.”
“You can take a message away from Haylyn’s strength because she is a very determined character. In the story, where a lot of the other humans accept that this is their lot, that they can’t leave, Haylyn never thinks that for longer than a few seconds. Stay determined.”
Reading and writing helps to better understand others
“The process of writing helped me learn a lot about how to be empathetic. Writing is really about putting yourself into someone else’s shoes entirely. It makes you pay attention to other people more. Reading and writing are really empathetic processes. It involves completely removing yourself from your own life, and imagining what it’s like in somebody else’s. I feel like I definitely have a better understanding of other people because of this.”
“Because of books you can better relate and understand. Have you read A Thousand Splendid Suns? It talks about these girls in Afghanistan in terrible situations. It’s relevant to the current events with refugees and the viewpoint of ‘don’t come to America’. I had my dad read that book, because I knew that it would change his perspective when he saw these young girls go through this bad situation. He’s so protective of my sister and I, and I knew that he would picture us in that same situation. And so, it changed his mind.”
In Callista’s case, her age helped her relate to her intended audience of young readers. What do you think about using your age as a tool to follow your passion? The comments are yours.